OPINION

Out cold: it might be time for mandatory stand-downs in the NRL

A tearful Boyd Cordner announced his retirement on Monday due to the effects of concussion. Photo: Mark Evans/Getty Images
A tearful Boyd Cordner announced his retirement on Monday due to the effects of concussion. Photo: Mark Evans/Getty Images

There is no bigger issue in rugby league right now than concussion, and I think the time has come for a serious discussion around mandatory stand-downs for head knock victims in our game.

It's a massive wake-up call when you see players like Boyd Cordner and Jake Friend, two of the toughest guys to ever play the game, having to announce their retirements because of the effects of concussion and consistently being knocked around.

Cronulla's Wade Graham is another high-profile player that has been affected, with question marks now emerging over his future as well.

It's a serious issue and we are finding out a lot more about just how serious it is now.

The story this week about former Queensland State of Origin player Brett Horsnell and the sad plight he finds himself in brings it home.

I can remember him playing and receiving a lot of those head knocks.

Straight away, I think about other players from my era who had a lot of concussions and I'm wondering how they are travelling.

These young men that are playing the game now have a long life in front of them.

You don't want them getting into their 40s and 50s and paying the price for our inaction now.

The NRL has certainly been on the front foot with the rule changes designed to bring down the incidence of concussion. But I think it can go a lot further.

The way the game is, it's hard, it's tough and everyone who plays is susceptible to head knocks and you have to be so careful.

So, while, it would be controversial in its implementation, I believe that it's time that we look at mandatory stand-down periods.

What form that takes would come down to the advice of the specialists in that field, and I'm no expert on the science of it all.

But you could have a sliding scale depending on the severity and number of head-knocks.

For example, if a player suffers a bad concussion where he is knocked out cold, you could look at a mandatory two-month period where that player can't take the field again.

A first-time concussion could see a player sit out a couple of weeks, a month for two concussions and longer for more instances.

I just think it's getting to that time where discussions have to be had and decisions made to further protect the players.

The NRL needs to sit down with specialist doctors and coaches and players and work out what is best for our game going forward.

Like I said, I'm obviously no medical expert and they are clearly the people the NRL has to rely on with all of this.

However, I honestly believe it has got the stage where the players have to be protected from themselves. It needs to be taken out of players' hands, and out of the hands of clubs as well.

It's a difficult one because it's a tough game where head knocks are inevitable because it's a contact sport.

But without wanting to sound like an alarmist, if we don't act now then down the track, who knows, we may not have a game as we know it.

It's the unknown that's scary. It just wasn't spoken about in the past. In the old days, it was a badge of honour after a concussion that you had the smelling salts and got up and got going again. You were soft if you went off.

Thankfully, that's not the case anymore because we know how serious it is.

But in my view, it's pretty clear we need to take the fight to protect our players even further than we already have.

ORIGIN CHANGES

If I'm Paul Green heading in Origin II, I'm making at least three changes to the Queensland squad in a bid to try and bridge the big gulf between the two sides and tie up the series at one-all.

Obviously, Kalyn Ponga, provided he is fit, comes in at fullback with Valentine Holmes going back to the wing while Raiders frontman Josh Papalii is an automatic choice to come into the frontrow.

But my big change would be to recall Will Chambers to left centre and shift Kurt Capewell into the backrow. That would allow me to start David Fifita from the bench.

I just think Chambers would add plenty to the footy side with his experience, his desire and his passion for the jersey. He adds a bit of swagger as well and would get in the face of the Blues.

As for NSW, it's tough to lose your spot in the 17 after being part of such a big win in game one but Penrith's Liam Martin may just have to miss out with Angus Crighton back from suspension.

THE GAMES

COWBOYS v SHARKS

Wade Graham is a big out for the Sharks and I like the Cowboys at home in this one. My tip: Cowboys

PANTHERS v ROOSTERS

The Roosters have been wonderful with all their injuries, but with the Origin stars back and at home, I think the Panthers will win after a dog fight. My tip: Panthers

KNIGHTS v WARRIORS

The Knights have three big inclusions in Pearce, Ponga and Klemmer so I'm favouring them in a must win game. My tip: Knights

DRAGONS v RAIDERS

The Raiders have a good side on paper and the lack of hunger from the Dragons last week was a worrying sign. My tip: Raiders

STORM v TIGERS

Melbourne is on top for a reason, and with Munster and Grant calling the shots I can't see the Tigers winning. My tip: Storm

EELS v DOGS

I loved the fight from the Dogs last week but this will be a step up in class. My tip: Eels

TITANS v EAGLES

With Tom Trbojevic back, it's Manly comfortably for mine. My tip: Eagles

This story Out cold: it might be time for mandatory stand-downs in the NRL | Laurie Daley first appeared on The Canberra Times.